"He made sure we were planning for retirement," said Joseph Figueiredo, a fellow carpenter who worked alongside Collins for six years. "He always read the business section of the Herald first. He gave us good advice on what stocks to buy and really cared about what we were doing with our money so we could retire."
Last month, Figueiredo and a number of other BC carpenters and employees found a way to reciprocate the care and consideration Collins always showed them, at a time when Collins and his family need it the most.
Three years ago, the 42-year-old Collins was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), commonly known as Lou Gerhig's Disease. His condition has steadily deteriorated to the point where he is unable to walk, talk or eat, and doctors have told family members he will not survive much longer.
"It's the worst disease. It makes me so sad to see him like this," said Joseph Finn, a Boston fire fighter and long-time friend. "He's the greatest guy. No one could do enough for him."
To assist his wife, Meg, and their children Katie, 12, and Anna, 10, friends organized a benefit at Florian Hall in Dorchester on Aug. 10, which featured a raffle and auction. An estimated 400-plus people - including not only co-workers and friends but complete strangers as well - turned out to support the Collins family. By the end of the evening, an estimated $58,000 had been raised for the family.
An auction of autographed sports memorabilia highlighted the event, and one attendee silenced the crowd by offering $1,300 for a baseball bat signed by Red Sox legend Ted Williams. Boston College donated some of the items that were raffled off.
"I think tonight he's the most connected man in Boston," said Meg Collins, who had trouble holding back the tears when she saw the people who turned out to support her family, including friends they had not seen since high school.
University President William P. Leahy, SJ, and Vice President for Human Resources Leo V. Sullivan later visited the Collins family in their Quincy home. The University will offer Katie and Anna Collins admission and a tuition-free education, should they choose to attend Boston College.
It was not the first time Collins' friends from the Carpentry Shop banded together to help their sick friend. Last April, several of the carpenters built an addition and made special adjustments to the Collins' home to accommodate the heavy wheelchair and other medical equipment he now needs.
"We knew we had to do something for the family so we all put our heads together," said Finn, referring to the 15-member committee that met for two months to plan the benefit.
"Chuck had the biggest grin on his face," said Figueiredo, interviewed after the event. "You could tell his fears for his family were eased a little."
Those who attended the benefit "helped make some of Chuck's dreams come true," said Meg Collins, "and he won't ever forget this."
Donations to support the Collins family can be sent to: The Fundraiser for Chuck Collins, Eastern Bank, 731 Hancock Street, Quincy, MA 02469.
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